WORKERS STAGE STRIKE IN PORT OF ROTTERDAM

WORKERS STAGE STRIKE IN PORT OF ROTTERDAM

About 200 workers in one of the world's largest ports halted work Tuesday as part of a series of intermittent stoppages that began last Feb. 12, a union spokesman said.

The striking employees of the Paktank and Matex companies want a 2 percent pay rise as part of their 1988 collective labor agreement, Bert Duym of the FNV Transport Union said.Long-term strike action is relatively rare in the Netherlands, although the port of Rotterdam is frequently hit by brief but unpredictable stoppages and work-to-rule protests.

Mr. Duym added that the strike was part of a strategy of surprise actions against the two companies, meant to disrupt only part of their operations at a time.

The union also disagrees with the companies over the introduction of new equipment in the port, which could threaten jobs, Mr. Duym said.

Paktank spokesman Huibert Goemans confirmed that 50 workers of his tank storage company had joined the stoppage and that an undetermined number of tanker ships were waiting to be loaded or unloaded.

He added that Paktank's afternoon shift refused to go to work as scheduled.

Nobody at Matex was immediately available for comment on the strike, which Mr. Duym said affected two of that company's plants in the Rotterdam area.